Tambu Glenda Muzenda reflects on the Movement Building Forum

SRHR Movement building Forum, 10-12 December, 2018

On December 10-12, I joined a new movement building network with a diverse group of advocates in the Eastern and Southern Africa region — in attending the SRHR Movement Building Forum. The event took place in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was encouraging to see and hear from so many diverse practitioners, advocates and beneficiaries during such a tumultuous time. There is a great need for advocates and experts who are skilled in SRHR to engage, and that those who can support capacity building so indeed impart those skills to others. Our country and region are anything but short on SRHR and violence so we need all the help we can get. My fellow movement builders and I attended workshops ranging from youth participation, SRHR and disability rights, LGBTI Rights, Body Politics and the Law and reproductive justice in various contexts as well as ones that focused on the Forum theme: Healthy, Sexy, Equal and Free.

The theme of the Forum was based on movement building in the region and provided a platform in which tools for change were shared – Uncomfortable Conversations and policy documents, leadership for the future was discussed, innovation and education provided and a critical lesson on opportunities to support movement building in the region considered. I was particularly attracted to topics of social enterprise especially with sanitary pads shared by Gateway Health Institute. I was curious about how it could be connected to SRHR and empowerment, resulting in better communities and availability of sanitary towels for girls and women. Through the Forum platforms or breakaways, I learned about social challenges that many still face, a need for zero tolerance initiatives on homophobia, Albinism killings, early forced child marriages, sexual violence and gender based violence across sectors. With such tall orders to challenge and take on, the Forum was revitalised by the activists’ efforts through chanting and singing in celebration of the Treatment Action Campaign’s (TAC) 20 years of pushing boundaries for change. I also learned about the value of collaboration to a larger narrative rooted in a community’s history. Then, I also realised that the movement building, like the TAC it remains vital for the movement builders to provide and share skills, providing services in a sustainable way, innovating for a community’s future, and promoting healthy, sexy, equal and free Africa that will ultimately be capable of standing as giants of change in the region. There were several places of overlap and a need for the movement to have a sense of what is happening in order to find linkages, collaborations and partnerships — skills and knowledge exchange provides a unique source of inspiration and vision for better SRHR in Africa.

While we hosted Uncomfortable Conversations, it was clear that our work in the future will require such a model in engaging various stakeholders: traditional leaders, gate-keepers, custodians of culture and government institutions to engage on the Forum’s theme and its realisation for all those affected and afflicted. Issues that were tabled in our session is an indication that the influencers in our communities still hold power that often is counter-productive to our advocacy strategies. Our presence in the discussions seemed to be the primary point of contact in representing children, adolescents and youth as responsible and able bodies who need healthy relationships as individuals, community members and citizens in any society. To the best of my knowledge, our interventions therefore have to be intentional and radical if we are to have responsible, caring and self-assertive children. We were able to bring a unique perspective to the forum, reflecting on how the ideas and practices discussed by the facilitators can be applied or reframed in terms of accessing spaces for change of social norms and bring about a human-centered development framework based on rights and respect. I hope that we were also able to contribute to the conversations of the forum with impact.

 Tambu Glenda Muzenda is a researcher based in Johannesburg. She is currently exploring human sexuality and social justice in development through “Uncomfortable Conversations” to identify the significance of power, and how adolescent negotiate this in their lived realities.